For some it may be a point of pride, while others will watch with dismay thinking of “the one that got away,” but it’s featured every year: former Buffalo Bills playing in the Super Bowl. This year, the feeling is different, knowing that the Bills were only one game away from appearing in the championship themselves.
Both teams have at least a couple of connections to Buffalo—does that change your mind about who to support on Sunday night?
The Chiefs’ organization is one of the most stable, homegrown franchises in the NFL, with most of their players and coaches rising internally rather than as splashy free-agent signings or replacements for departed staff. So it’s not too surprising that there are very few Buffalo links among this group.
The only former Buffalo Bills player on the Chiefs roster is wideout Sammy Watkins, who was Buffalo’s first-round draft pick in 2014. This is his third year with the Chiefs, a season marked by frequent injuries and missed games. Watkins hasn’t played at all in the playoffs because of a calf injury, but is expected to return in the Super Bowl. He had 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns in ten games this year.
Pretty much the entire coaching staff never stopped in Buffalo, either moving up through Andy Reid’s coaching tree or Steve Spagnuolo’s. The closest connection is linebackers coach Matt House, who was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator for the University at Buffalo from 2006 to 2007. Obviously, Bills head coach Sean McDermott worked for Andy Reid for a number of years when the pair were with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Buccaneers, who were a little more open to outside reinforcements, definitely feature more Buffalo connections. LeSean McCoy, who played for the Bills from 2015 to 2018, didn’t actually get to play in the Super Bowl when he spent last season with the Chiefs. Now with the Buccaneers, he’s barely seen the field, but Tampa Bay activated him and played him on one snap in each of the last two games—so McCoy might have his Super Bowl appearance after all.
Cornerback Ross Cockrell, a reserve who spent some of the season on the practice squad, entered the league as a fourth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2014. Long snapper Garrison Sanborn played eight years in Buffalo, and now he’s on Tampa’s practice squad (Zach Triner took over the starting long snapper role from Sanborn in 2019). Then there are the less direct links: Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is, of course, the son of cornerback Antoine Winfield—a first-round pick by the Bills in 1999. Rob Gronkowski grew up in Williamsville. Antonio Brown was once traded to the Bills—oh wait, I’m hearing that report was false.
The Bucs have one former Buffalo Bills coach on their staff—Tim Atkins, who spent two years as a quality control assistant from 2011 to 2012. Their head coach, Bruce Arians, has a Buffalo connection, too—his son, Jake, spent ten games as the Bills’ kicker in 2001.